By Yuen Foong Khong

From international warfare I to Operation wilderness typhoon, American policymakers have many times invoked the "lessons of historical past" as they pondered taking their state to warfare. Do those old analogies really form coverage, or are they basically instruments of political justification? Yuen Foong Khong argues that leaders use analogies no longer in simple terms to justify rules but in addition to accomplish particular cognitive and information-processing projects necessary to political decision-making. Khong identifies what those projects are and indicates how they are often used to provide an explanation for the U.S. determination to interfere in Vietnam. counting on interviews with senior officers and on lately declassified records, the writer demonstrates with a precision no longer attained through prior experiences that the 3 most crucial analogies of the Vietnam era--Korea, Munich, and Dien Bien Phu--can account for America's Vietnam offerings. a different contribution is the author's use of cognitive social psychology to help his argument approximately how people analogize and to give an explanation for why policymakers usually use analogies poorly.

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7 Reference to "the lessons of Munich" or "the lessons of Korea" was likely to be an effectIve means of doing so. " University Press, 1988), pp. 14-16, for a succinct discussion of Eckstein, "Case Study and Theory," pp. 113-20. • Department of State Bulletin, August 16, 1965, p. 262. 7 See The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam, Senator Gravel ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), 3:594, 648. " July 21, 1965, and memo, Horace Busby to the President, "Impressions, Vietnam Discussion," July 21, 1965, Miscellaneous Vietnam Documents, Reference File.

Previous works on the subject of the "lessons of history" and foreign policy have been large N studies of high quality. May's "Lessons" of the Past surveys the entire period after World War II in search of analogies that influenced American foreign policy. Snyder and Diesing's Conflict among Nations does not seek, but finds, many instances of analogies influencing policy discussions in international crises between 1898 and 1973. 8 May and Jervis were interested in demonstrating how persistent, widespread, and prone to error the phenomenon of learning from history is.

113. 42 Ibid. " For reasons why I have not used the "Operational Code" in this work, see my "From Rotten Apples to Falling Dominos to Mu- is probably obvious that our earlier discussion about identifying the salient analogies and documenting their role in policymaking involves procesS tracing. How else can one determine whether analogies perform the tasks the AE framework claims they do? To return to the example of Munich: it is by process tracing that we determine who was informed by the analogy, how it affected his analysis of the "Vietnam problem," and whether the analogy commanded the belief of others or elicited dismissive rebuttals,43 In addition to Munich, I also trace the paths of the Korean and Dien Bien Phu analogies in the policy process.

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Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1965 by Yuen Foong Khong


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